The Financial Diaries
Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider
Princeton University Press, April 2017

Deep within the American Dream lies the belief that hard work and steady saving will ensure a comfortable retirement and a better life for one’s children. But in a nation experiencing unprecedented prosperity, even for many families who seem to be doing everything right, this ideal is still out of reach.

In The Financial Diaries, Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider draw on the groundbreaking U.S. Financial Diaries, which follow the lives of 235 low- and middle-income families as they navigate through a year. Through the Diaries, Morduch and Schneider challenge popular assumptions about how Americans earn, spend, borrow, and save—and they identify the true causes of distress and inequality for many working Americans.

We meet real people, ranging from a casino dealer to a street vendor to a tax preparer, who open up their lives and illustrate a world of financial uncertainty in which even limited financial success requires imaginative—and often costly—coping strategies. Morduch and Schneider detail what families are doing to help themselves and describe new policies and technologies that will improve stability for those who need it most.

Combining hard facts with personal stories, The Financial Diaries presents an unparalleled inside look at the economic stresses of today’s families and offers powerful, fresh ideas for solving them.

About the Authors

Jonathan Morduch is Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. His research centers on microfinance, social investment, and the economics of poverty.

Morduch is co-author of Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day (Princeton, 2009) and The Economics of Microfinance (MIT Press, 2nd edition 2010), and he is co-editor of Banking the World: Empricial Foundations of Financial Inclusion (MIT Press, 2012). He has taught on the Economics faculty at Harvard University, and has held visiting positions at Stanford, Princeton, the University of Tokyo, and Hitotsubashi University. Morduch has worked with the United Nations and World Bank, and advises global NGOs.

Morduch holds a BA from Brown and Ph.D. from Harvard, both in Economics. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in December 2008 in recognition of his work on microfinance.

Rachel Schneider is the Senior Vice President, Insights and Analytics, for the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI). In this position, Schneider serves as an industry expert on the underbanked marketplace, identifying new innovations, analyzing trends and managing ongoing consumer research. She coordinates relationships with academic and industry research partners and collaborates with financial services companies and others regarding strategy development and product design related to the underbanked market.

Prior to joining CFSI, Schneider consulted with financial institutions, foundations and nonprofits on innovative strategies and financial products to reach underserved markets. She was also previously the Associate Director of the Aspen Institute Initiative on Financial Security, where she was responsible for leading the design of proposed products that would facilitate savings and investment by lower income Americans. Schneider began her career as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch & Co., though her interest in the underbanked hails from her days as a VISTA Volunteer.

Schneider holds a J.D./M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. from UC Berkeley.